Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ten Books

There are these things going around on FB and so I thought I would list the 10 books that changed my life here. In no order, and off the top of my head, as, I think, the rules state:

1) Lord Foul's Bane, by Stephen R. Donaldson. I was a fantasy fan in my teens and this character Thomas Covenant seemed so real and flawed. It was a revelation and was great for me at the time so I could understand that morality is not simple.

2) The Foundation Trilogy, by Asimov. Not sure why. I feel like Dune and The Empire of the East by Saberhagen changed me too, but back in those days every book or record did, like when the Cult's Love came out.

3) Pastoralia, by George Saunders. This one is just so good. "The Barber's Unhappiness" is one of the best stories ever, so honest and so hard to read at times.

4) What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, by Raymond Carver. I hadn't read Carver long ago when I started writing short fiction in a class taught by Tom Henighan during my undergrad. He was a model and I didn't know it. I think he'd changed things so much I was copying his copies.

5) Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, by Grace Paley. I still think she is horribly underrated, like she should be mentioned before Carver every time, and before Saunders, and before all of them except maybe Alice Munro (who is not on this list because I don't remember her books, just some stories. I've read her books so many times I feel like her work exists just like short fiction should -- as a life-long collection of discrete stories. Anyway, back to Paley. It was so great to hear her name from Gish Jen when she read with Tobias Wolff at the last AWP.

6) Swarm, by Jorie Graham. For better or worse, changed the way I read and write poetry, and led to my finding her other work, like the poem "At the Cabaret Now."
7) 60 Stories, by Donald Barthelme. "The Glass Mountain," "The School," "See the Moon?" "City of Churches," "Me and Mrs. Mandible," the one with Paul Klee in the title . . . they are all so good. Somehow he manages to be so clever and so funny without being cold.

8) Nine Stories, by J. D. Salinger. I cannot get enough of "For Esme, with Love and Squalor." Every time I read a book about war, or a book where characters try to live after some kind of trauma, I cannot help but think of this story.

9) The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker

10) Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje

1 comment:

  1. There's no way to finish this list, really. I remembered two more: A Disaffection by James Kelman and one of ee cummings' books found by a young me in the Saskatoon Public Library.